LESLIE CRISS: Roadside encounter causes one person to rethink judgment

LESLIE CRISS

LESLIE CRISS

“Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” – George Orwell

“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world … would do this, it would change the earth.” – William Faulkner

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Unless you’ve been on vacation or are in a self-imposed news blackout, you are, no doubt, well aware a dozen people lost their lives last Monday morning at the Washington Navy Yard.

They likely began their week just like many others, having breakfast and heading to work, without a clue that tragedy awaited them in the form of an armed and mentally unstable 34-year-old former Navy reservist named Aaron Alexis.

Nearly a week later, there are still unanswered questions, including the most basic – why?

Early last Monday afternoon, when the horrific details were emerging and being delivered piecemeal by every manner of media, my sister stopped at a small roadside farmers’ market near her Huntsville, Ala., home.

She was in search of a jar of local honey.

The market was run by an older woman and a younger woman, most probably mother and daughter, my sister assumed.

As Beth looked around, the older woman spoke, asking, then answering her own question.”

“Have you heard anymore on the shooting? I hear they’ve caught one but are still looking for another.”

The younger woman quickly posed a question of her own.

“Were they terrorists?”

The older woman answered as my sister remained silent.

“Well, I’m sure they were Muslims.”

At that point, my peace-loving, nonconfrontational sister had a very visceral response.

“I thought I was going to be sick,” she said. “I felt the blood rush to my face and my body tensed up. I’m sure if they had been looking at me, they would have noticed something was wrong.”

She started to turn and walk away, leaving the honey behind.

“But I decided to pay for the honey, and as I began to walk away, I turned back,” she said. “I decided to try and speak some truth to the older woman.”

My sister told her she knew several Muslims and that they are fine and decent human beings.

Immediately, the woman’s manner softened.

“Oh, honey, I know that,” she said. “We are all God’s children.”

There on the side of a Huntsville road, gentle but courageous words from my sister caused one woman to look into her heart and remember what she certainly already knew.

If that could happen with every human being, what a different world it would be.

leslie.criss@journalinc.com